A Reader’s Response

Well, it turns out not everyone liked my last blog about my concerns regarding what I call the “partial Gospel.” My Facebook friend, Gordon, who I believe is an attorney, responded with this via FB:

“I have been thinking for several hours about an appropriate response to this. Please take nothing here personally. I address the idea, not you personally. I think what bothers me the most about what you have written here, is the arrogance of the idea that folks who think like you are the sole holders and guardians of God’s truth. There is no room for the idea that perhaps God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and we don’t have perfect understanding of God’s mind. Sure, some of you folks might mouth that idea, but there is no application of it. This arrogance of thought seems to lead to a marked lack of intellectual rigor. Put more simply, this arrogance of thought seems to lead to habitual sloppy thinking. It is what leads a vast majority of the Evangelical church (as I understand it, not you) to embrace a man who is a serial, unrepentant, adulterer, and a habitual, many times a day, continual liar, as God’s chosen leader of our country. Both of these sins made the “Top Ten,” while homosexuality is mired somewhere in Leviticus, along with no cheeseburgers, no coconut shrimp, and no cotton/poly sport shirts. You might be right about your position, and I might be wrong, I can recognize that, your folks can’t recognize the opposite.”

My first thought was, WOW!! Somebody actually thought about something I wrote for “several hours!” That’s a first! Usually what I say just goes in one ear and out the other!! Just kidding, I appreciated Gordon’s thoughtfulness. As an attorney, I’m sure he was chewing on all angles in his argument.

My second thought was, I need to ask for forgiveness if something I did offended him. Now, if the message was offensive to him that’s different, but as Christians we are not to make our brothers stumble and to seek forgiveness when we offend (Romans 14:13; Matthew 5:24). So, Gordon, if I offended you, I am sorry.

Then came this sentence: “I think what bothers me the most about what you have written here, is the arrogance of the idea that folks who think like you are the sole holders and guardians of God’s truth.”

This one got me thinking for a couple of days!!

I get that the church has a “holier than thou” issue so I understand where Gordon is coming from. But driving down the road today this thought struck me: True arrogance is man rejecting God’s moral and absolute law because God doesn’t agree with him! How arrogant is man that he has decided that God is unreasonable and thus unworthy of being taken at His word because God doesn’t agree with us? I hope that I can explain why I think this as we move on through this exercise.

Gordon rightly notes that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. But God also tells us His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). It’s not a matter that God is just holier in thinking the same things we think; God thinks COMPLETELY differently than we do and  a way that we simply cannot comprehend! The Book of Job is a great illustration of this. As the story opens, Satan is hanging around heaven (which surprises many of us!) and God says to him, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Do you see what happened there? God picks Job not Satan! The story, as you know, continues with God allowing Satan to basically do anything he wants to Job short of killing him in an effort to prove that Job will curse God. It’s a long book but when you get to chapter 38 you read where Job wants an audience with God because he feels God has treated him unfairly by allowing Satan to basically destroy his life. God’s response? “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” God then chastises Job for even considering he had a right to question God’s ways. WOW!!

One of the many lessons we get from this is that God’s law is not like man’s law. Gordon is a great attorney. In his work, he can take a guilty person and convince a jury that the man is not guilty through a variety of legal tactics.

God’s law, however, does not work this way. It’s black and white. There are no loopholes, there are no technicalities, there are no juries pools to select  and sway, there is no challenging a witness’ credibility, there are no change of venues, there are no judges recusing themselves, there are no plea bargains, there are no reduced sentences for time served, there are no legislatures you run to in order to change the law, and there is no dream team of lawyers you can hire to get you off. Nope, there is God, His Word, and its outcome. And the outcome is crystal clear: we are all guilty of rebelling against God, a price must be paid for that rebellion in blood, and Jesus paid that price for all of us standing in our place for judgment. Justice was served because God is a God of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, while at the same time a God of holiness, righteousness, justice, and truth.

So, I would agree with Gordon regarding the perception that Christians can seem arrogant because we are so intolerant of other ways to God except through the Son and we hold to the truths in scripture. But as I tell people, I didn’t write the Bible; if I did it would read a lot differently! As Christians, we believe scripture truly is God’s living Word so we hold to it unto death! If that seems arrogant, so be it.

Let me drill down a little further though. It is so important to understand what we believe the Word of God is!

John tells us in his Gospel that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). Of course, John is talking about Jesus. Jesus is the Word. Now, follow me here! If Jesus is the Word, then God’s Word is Jesus, ergo scripture is from Jesus. This is why Jesus confirmed the truth of scripture (Old Testament) over and over again during His time on earth. He was very clear that not one jot or one tittle (stroke or mark) of the law would parish until all was fulfilled, which will happen when Jesus comes again (Matthew 5:18)!

So, what does this mean? It means everything you read in the Old Testament came from Jesus, who told us that the scriptures are about Him! And yes, that means all God’s moral laws stand even the ones we don’t like because they don’t align with the current culture. That would be Leviticus, Gordon.

Let me dive even deeper: Homosexuality is the big issue everyone gets their panties in a twist about. Jesus, did indeed, address it! Let me just enumerate how:

  1. John tells us that nothing was created without Jesus who was there from the beginning. Thus, Adam and Eve were created intentionally by Jesus as man and wife (John 1:3)
  2. Jesus confirms this when He reminds his audience that God made them male and female and that a man will leave his family to be joined with his wife (Ephesians 5:31)
  3. Jesus also notes that anyone who relaxes or breaks any of the OT laws will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:19), thus affirming the prohibition on sexual immorality which had a first century legal meaning in scripture that included, adultery, bestiality, homosexuality, incest, prostitution, rape, premarital sex, shrine prostitution, transvestism, unclean acts, and violation of betrothal.
  4. As Christians, we believe that the New Testament is God’s word as well, inspired truth!! And, Jesus addresses the prohibition on homosexuality there as well (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-12; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; and Jude 1:7).

Thus, it’s not really “sloppy thinking” as Gordon puts it to believe that homosexuality is a sin; it is actually taking the words at face value and believing that God’s way are not my ways and when the two ways clash God is always right!

That said, I’ll be the first to say (and I’ve said it before) that homosexuality is not the top sin in the sin hierarchy! In fact, I don’t actually believe there is a sin hierarchy! All sin is rebellion against God which is why EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is defective, dysfunctional, and in dire need of a savior in our lives!

This is why I said in my original blog that the most loving thing one can do is tell the truth about this stuff!! I don’t want people going to hell because they don’t understand the sovereignty of God! When I read Gordon’s note it felt as if he was applying worldly standards to Godly prerogative (but I don’t think it was intentional on his part at all). In the worldly economy, we demand that people respect our individual rights and freedoms. In God’s economy, however, God’s will rules and it rules alone without man’s input (Romans 2:11).

Two more arguments that I need to address: First, God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is this idea that maybe God changed His mind! No, He didn’t. Scripture makes that very clear (Numbers 23:19). He meant what He said. Second, I think most Christians misunderstand Paul’s description of no longer being under the Old Testament law (Romans 6:14). We are not under the penalty of the law, but God’s absolute moral law stands. Period. Paul rightly notes that without the law we wouldn’t know what sin is (Romans 7:7). In other words, without the law we wouldn’t even understand right from wrong. Thus, God did not change His mind about right and wrong or his absolute moral laws! What changed was Jesus paying the penalty for us breaking these laws so we wouldn’t have to pay that penalty. So, we are not under the penalty of the law but God’s definition of right and wrong stands.

 

This is important so please understand there is a difference, though, between the moral law (don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, etc.) and cleanliness laws (if you touch a dead body get out of the camp). When you read Leviticus (I know, everyone’s favorite book), do so as if you are the health director for a mob of about a million people who are about to wander in the desert for 40 years. The health and welfare laws God put in place for the Israelites is more about keeping them from killing themselves through disease than anything else. However, Leviticus also contains God’s moral law as well.

Gordon digresses a bit here to address how evangelicals have embraced an unnamed person (read: President Donald Trump) even though that person clearly is not what one would consider a born-again, new-creation-in-Christ, transformed Christian. It seems like a random thought in his prose, but I get where he’s going: evangelical look like hypocrites. And you know what, Gordon’s right on that one.

It is one thing if you support Trump because you agree with his policies, but as Christians we cannot in any way support lying, cheating, illegal activities, womanizing, misogyny, bullying, coarse language, or anything else God calls sin. We must hold Trump to the same standard we are so eager to hold homosexuals and abortionists to! And no, the ends do not justify the means. God chooses leaders (some turn out to be good while some turn out to be bad), but God doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin just because the leader may or may not be doing something the people like. Just look at the 39 Kings of Israel; only 8 were considered good kings in Scripture! God uses everyone for His purpose yet He also calls out evil people as He did with the remaining 31 kings saying, “they did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (See Kings)

Here is a thought that came to mind when I was meditating on Gordon’s note that I think sums things up pretty well.

We call Jesus our savior. We say He is full of love; we say He is full of grace; and we say He is full of mercy. For Christians, this is truth! But let me define these terms to make a point.

If someone is a savior, it means there is something that needs to be saved! And if there is something that need to be saved, there is then something that person is being saved from! So, if Jesus is a savior then those of us who call Him that must need saving! And from what? SIN! Here’s the problem, then: when you decide God is wrong about what He calls sin and you’ve decided for yourself it is not sin then you no longer need Jesus in that part of your life because it no longer needs saving! Now that is a slippery slope because you end up not needing Jesus at all as you whittle down the list of things you’ll agree is sin in your life.

We’ve talked about love so I won’t beat the horse any longer other than to say love is truth and truth is love.

What about grace? We define grace as being given something that we don’t deserve and have not earned. Thus, Jesus give us grace – forgiveness and salvation – which we neither deserve nor earned because we are sinners, unrighteous and unholy.

Then there is mercy. We define mercy as not getting what we do deserve and have earned through our actions. Jesus shows us mercy by not letting us go to hell for our rebellion against God but instead taking our punishment for us and opening the gates of heaven for us!

Do you see how love, grace and mercy meet the Father’s demand for holiness, righteousness and justice through Jesus?

So, to answer Gordon’s question: why, then, is the only way to the Father through the Son (John 14:6)? Because the Son is the only one who is a savior who gives grace and mercy to the sinner because He loves them. That is why. No other faith boasts such a gift but instead demands personal works, special knowledge or even death to be worthy of a god and even then you don’t actually know if you’re going to heaven or not!  Other faiths make man prove himself to a god; Christianity is God giving Himself to man. That is the difference.

Jesus told us that if we loved Him we would obey what He commands (John 14:15). Then asks later why we say we love Him if we don’t obey what He says (Luke 6:46)? Then He says the most terrifying words in all of scripture in Matthew 7:21 where He tells a group of people who think they are disciples that He never knew them. Why? Because they didn’t do things to glorify God rather, they did things in Jesus’ name that aligned with their own beliefs and desires. Sound familiar?

I wrote the original blog because I am very concerned that we are raising a generation of Christians who have watered down the Gospel and are looking for what C.S. Lewis called “Cheap Grace” in the hopes of making their faith align with their personal beliefs instead of the other way around. But as Augustine said, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”

Gordon, again, I hope I’ve not offended you with my defense. I also hope this helps explain why we Jesus freaks are the way we are and why we will continue to hold to our faith even if others think we are foolish, arrogant, or even just nut jobs! Know that I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Perhaps you’ll have some on this blog as well!

One comment

  1. Lynette Fraga · · Reply

    I believe a true misconception, of the general non Christian public, is that Christian’s do have that “holier than thou” attitude, and maybe some do. But I know that I need God because I am a sinner and know that by his Grace only am I saved. I enjoyed reading your response and always learn a thing or two 🙂

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